Chicago Cubs targeting in-house media network

The Chicago Cubs is keen to form its own media network after its current broadcast contracts expire, according to the Major League Baseball club’s president of business operations, Crane Kenney.

The Cubs’ local rights deals with NBC Sports Chicago, ABC-7 and WGN-9 are due to expire following the 2019 season. The team won the World Series in 2016, its first title in over a century, and Kenney said it is keen to capitalise on its current success.

The Cubs currently own a 20 per cent stake in NBC Sports Chicago, a similar interest to that held by the city’s other major league teams – MLB’s White Sox, NBA basketball franchise the Bulls and NHL ice hockey team the Blackhawks.

Kenney told the Chicago Tribune newspaper: “We have a big passion for controlling our own destiny. It’s sort of like conversations in the real estate market. We like controlling our own destiny. You start adding partners and it becomes a lot more complicated.

“(Bulls and White Sox chairman) Jerry Reinsdorf has been an amazing partner, as has Comcast. It’s been a very successful thing. If it made the ultimate sense, it would (make sense to stay). But I’d say at the moment we’re 80 per cent inclined to do it on our own.”

Kenney said the Cubs have been looking forward to a major broadcast deal since the Ricketts family acquired the franchise from media group Tribune Co. in 2009. “We’ve never lost focus on this because it’s such a big (deal) and a game-changer for us,” he said. “And two years ago, (president of baseball operations) Theo Epstein … said the next TV deal could present a ‘paradigm shift.’”

Kenney added: “We only have two seasons left, so something is going to happen very quickly here. We’re in conversations, if not every day, several times a week with all the rights people. It’s a good time to have a great club on the field and our rights coming back. We don’t want to go into the 2019 season without a partner. So something probably happens this year.”